Desmond launched J.J. Hoover’s curveball into the upper deck above left field, the first step to salvaging the Nationals’ 7-6, 11-inning triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. The victory still had not been decided — on Saturday, as new closer Rafael Soriano blew his first save, nothing came easy.
Two batters later, catcher Wilson Ramos stood only a few yards from the spot where, last May, he bent over to pick up a passed ball and his doubt blanketed his career. Saturday, he crushed his second home run of the afternoon, a blast to dead center field. He hopped in the batter’s box and took 25 seconds to circle the bases. “I know,” he said. “I got it.”
Only after Craig Stammen secured the win in the bottom of the 11th, allowing one run in the process, could the Nationals line up, shake hands and officially put the 15-0 trouncing they absorbed Friday night behind them. The Nationals had felt the numbness from a drubbing. Now, they wouldn’t have to chase that with the sting of a collapse. Maybe it seems silly to think of a result during April’s first week as a tone-setter for the season. Maybe not.
“I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we would have lost,” Desmond said.
“I don’t even want to think about that,” Jayson Werth said.
There was a lot to swallow, if first you could catch your breath.
Where to start? The Nationals built a 5-1 lead lead on home runs from Bryce Harper, Ramos and Werth. Starter Ross Detwiler allowed no earned runs in six innings — take away the six earned runs Dan Haren allowed Friday night, and the Nationals’ rotation has a 0.36 ERA after one trip through.
After Detwiler made it through the fifth inning, having allowed at least one base runner every inning, Manager Davey Johnson turned to pitching coach Steve McCatty, mindful of the cozy dimensions and the mashers in the other dugout. “I need Det to give me six,” he said. “Because I need Stammen for the end. Strange things happen here.”
After Tyler Clippard dominated the scoreless seventh inning, the Nationals carried a four-run lead into the eighth inning, the kind of edge their bullpen — reconstituted to avoid the devastating finish from Game 5 of the National League Division Series — was built to protect.
“We had control of the game,” Werth said. “And then all of a sudden we didn’t.”